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UN watchdog warns of ‘major’ crisis amid violence near Ukraine’s nuclear power plant

#watchdog #warns #major #crisis #violence #Ukraines #nuclear #power #plant

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog warned at an emergency Security Council meeting on Thursday about the “severe” crisis unfolding at Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, as Moscow and Kyiv exchanged accusations of new bombings near the plant.

“This is a serious hour, a difficult hour,” Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Security Council, adding that the IAEA urgently needed to be allowed to conduct a mission to Zaporizhia.

And in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “nuclear blackmail” when he called on the international community to “react immediately to expel the occupiers from Zaporizhia”.

“Only full Russian withdrawal… would guarantee nuclear safety for all of Europe,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation.

Moscow and Kyiv on Thursday blamed each other for fresh shelling near the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, a dangerous escalation five months into the war.

Both sides said there had been five rocket attacks near a radioactive material storage area at the facility, Europe’s largest nuclear facility, which has been the focus of renewed fighting in recent days.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom later said there had been fresh Russian shelling near one of the plant’s six reactors, causing “heavy smoke” and “damaging multiple radiation sensors”.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Moscow-based regional administration, said Ukrainian forces “attacked again” the plant.

The Ukrainian plant is under the control of Russian troops, and Ukraine has accused Moscow of stationing hundreds of soldiers and storing weapons there.

– ‘Can’t wait any longer’ –

In New York, all members of the Security Council supported calls for an urgent IAEA mission to Ukraine – but there was no consensus on who was responsible for the attacks and who should be responsible for carrying out the mission.

Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the visit “cannot wait any longer,” but added that only a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine would ensure the nuclear plant’s safety.

“This would allow Ukraine to restore the impeccable safety and security performance it has maintained at the facility for decades.”

But Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebensia, blamed the attacks around Zaporizhia squarely on Ukrainian forces.

“We call on states that support the Kiev regime to keep their proxies in check to force them to stop attacks on Zaporizhia’s nuclear power plant immediately and once and for all in order to ensure safe conditions for the IAEA to take place.” mission,” Nebenzya told the council.

Earlier Thursday, Washington also backed calls to establish a demilitarized zone around the plant.

– “State Sponsor of Terrorism” –

The Soviet-era factory in southern Ukraine was captured by Russian troops in early March – shortly after Moscow began invading its neighbor – and has been on the front line ever since.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned Russia of an “even more catastrophic incident than Chernobyl” – a reference to the nuclear disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

“Russia turned the nuclear power plant into a battlefield,” he said earlier Thursday, speaking via video link to a Ukrainian donors’ conference in Copenhagen.

He called for tougher sanctions on Russia and said it was a “terrorist state” – the same day Latvian MPs passed a resolution calling Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

The statement said Russia’s actions in Ukraine constituted “targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed this as a “timely step” and urged other countries to follow suit, while Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “xenophobia”.

Latvia has also urged all EU countries to ban tourist visas for Russian citizens, saying the measure should be extended to Belarusians because of the Belarusian regime’s support for the invasion.

– “We hope the best” –

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014, the war has raged on.

In the bombed city of Soledar, the few remaining residents live in underground makeshift shelters.

“We’re hoping for the best, but it’s getting worse and worse every day,” said Svitlana Klymenko, 62, as the relentless shelling continued outside.

Another man who lives in the shelter, 59-year-old Oleg Makeev, said: “You can’t cook anything here normally, you can’t wash yourself. How am I supposed to feel?”

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